FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
against Docket #FIC 1997-236
City of Hartford,
Respondent January 28, 1998
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 5, 1997, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. The caption of the case has been amended to reflect the dismissal of the complainant as to the respondent Deputy Corporation Counsel, City of Hartford.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of §1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter dated July 23, 1997, the complainant requested that the respondent provide her with copies of “all maintenance records for the last 5 years regarding tree limbs on or extending from 8 Westland Street, Hartford, Connecticut” (the “requested records”).
3. By two letters dated July 29, 1997, the respondent declined to provide the requested records to the complainant, stating that the requested records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to §1-19b(b)(1), G.S.
4. By a notice of appeal dated July 30, 1997, and filed on July 31, 1997, the complainant appealed to the Commission (sometimes herein “FOIC”), alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information Act by declining to provide the requested records in the letters dated July 29, 1997.
5. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in pertinent part that:
Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right…to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15.
6. Section 1-15(a), G.S., in turn, provides in pertinent part that:
(a)ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly,
upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.
7. Section 1-19b(b)(1), G.S., provides in pertinent part that:
Nothing in [the FOI Act] shall be deemed in any manner
to…limit the rights of litigants, including parties to
administrative proceedings, under the laws of discovery
of this state….
8. It is found that civil litigation is pending in Superior Court against both the respondent and the client of the complainant, based upon an allegation that personal injury resulted when a tree limb fell on a sidewalk. While a motion to strike has been granted in favor of the respondent, who is a defendant in such pending litigation, a notice of appeal concerning this ruling has also been filed by the plaintiff in such litigation.
9. The Commission takes administrative notice of the decision in Chief of Police, Hartford Police Department v. Freedom of Information Commission, et al., No. CV96-0561310, Superior Court, Judicial District of Hartford/New Britain at Hartford, July 30, 1997, which decision states the law controlling the present contested case. The court cites with approval another trial court opinion to the effect “that disclosure in a judicial proceeding is separate and independent from the action of the FOIC”, supra, p. 6, and finds a “legislative desire not to allow the discovery process in judicial proceedings to restrict access to public records”, supra, p. 7. The appeal from an FOIC order to disclose documents relating to an internal affairs investigation was dismissed.
10. It is concluded herein that the respondent has failed to prove that disclosure of the requested records would limit any specific right of the litigants, under the laws of discovery of the state, in the civil action described at paragraph 8, above, and that such a disclosure would thereby violate §1-19b(b)(1), G.S.
11. It is therefore concluded that the respondent violated §§1-19(a) and 1-15(a), G.S., when it failed to provide the complainant with a copy of the requested records.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondent shall forthwith provide the complainant with a copy of the requested records.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of January 28, 1998.
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S., THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
Law Offices of Gerald F. Devokaitis
21 Oak Street, Suite 306
Hartford, CT 06106
City of Hartford
c/o Ivan A. Ramos
550 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103
Doris V. Luetjen
Acting Clerk of the Commission